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Missing persons on social media: Verify, coordinate with cops

How does one report a missing person to the authorities?

MANILA, Philippines — Several cases of missing persons have been raised in social media following the successful recovery of 17-year-old Patricia “Ica” Policarpio, who went missing in Muntinlupa City last week.

Policarpio's case encouraged citizens with missing loved ones to use social media to help find them.

Other concerned netizens also joined in helping find missing persons through social media and took their own initiatives to create lists of missing persons.

Commission on Elections Spokesperson James Jimenez was among the concerned citizens who took to social media to help missing persons. He proposed that all Twitter users retweet missing persons notice using hashtag #StillMissing. 

READ: 'Christmas miracle': Missing teen Ica found in Laguna

There is also an existing Facebook page called “Missing People Philippines,” an unofficial missing person’s listing. They post links, photos, with important information of the missing people in the country to help them send them home.

“We believe in social media's reach please click SHARE to help bring these people home,” the page’s description read.

'Social media helps find missing persons'

The Philippine National Police, which has yet to form a group solely for cases of missing persons, welcomes this development and considers social media a big help.

Chief Inspector Rohaina Asalan, spokesperson of the Quezon City Police District Public Information Office, advised people to verify the missing persons cases first.

“I-screen din nila kung talagang totoo, makipag-tulungan sila sa polisya, (Review the posts if they are true, coordinate with the police,) ” Asalan said in a recent interview with TV Patrol.

In 2015, volunteer group “Philippine Missing Persons” said one person goes missing every 15 minutes in the country. It said most individuals who disappear are the elderly, mentally-challenged, and young girls.

The group, established in 2011, seeks to raise awareness in the issue of missing persons in the country. It also set up a Facebook page to help families with missing loved ones but it stopped operating since 2015.

Former Sen. Manny Villar in 2010 filed Senate Bill Senate Bill No. 1137 or the “Missing Persons Council Act Of 2010.”

“The Missing Persons Council shall, among others, formulate and adopt plans, programs and measures to prevent and combat the cases of missing persons in the country, investigate such cases and direct the speedy prosecution of all persons liable for persons missing and monitor the progress of their cases,” the proposed bill read.

Villar cited that there are numerous cases of missing persons in the country which have been recorded but a large percentage of these cases remain unresolved.

The proposed Senate bill, however, was not approved and was pending before the 15th Congress adjourned.

Without laws and a specific agency dedicated to finding missing persons, authorities advised the public to seek help from the police to hasten their search for missing loved ones.

Asalan said anyone can report cases of missing persons and enumerated the procedures on how to report them.

When filing report:

  • Bring photo – Concerned citizen should prepare recent photo of the missing person

  • Provide information – Concerned citizen are also asked to provide the important information including the name, age, description of the last clothing worn by the person, last location

These details and documents would be filed under police blotter and the authorities would set up a case or hotline for it.

In the case of Policarpio, National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Oscar Albayalde said the police worked on the initial information given by her family. The Southern Police District also formed a special task group to track the teen.

Albayalde also said they set up a hotline where an influx of information on Policarpio’s whereabouts was received. These efforts helped in finding Policarpio, alongside the family’s social media appeal.

Recovery of a missing person does not stop PNP from investigating the case as they would still conduct a post probe to determine it there are other factors regarding the disappearance, including kidnapping or human trafficking.

RELATED: NCRPO chief says no indications Ica Policarpio was kidnapped

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